2008 debut album from the Cardiff-based seven-piece. Recorded in Canada and produced by David Newfeld (Broken Social Scene) the album is a frenetic mix of Indie Pop inspired by the likes of Architecture In Helsinki, Pavement and Bis. It's been a hugely eventful year for the band: a right-of-passage, roller coaster, massively exciting kind of year, that's seen them make an impressive dent globally, experience an avalanche of 'firsts', and subsequently proved their mettle as a Pop collective of huge potential...and all before they've even released their debut album!
Review by Tim Sendra
Every now and then the title of an album is a perfect embodiment of the music found within. Los Campesinos! are dead right calling their album Hold on Now, Youngster..., because from the first track on, the album is a thrilling madcap whirlwind of sound, words, and voices that by the end leaves you feeling like you've been engulfed in an indie pop-driven hurricane. The members of the Welsh seven-piece are hyper-literate, hilarious, and know their way around a hook as they pile through the 11 songs on the album like they are on a breakaway heading for the goal. Words tumble out in jumbles, the lead voices (Gareth with his high-pitched whine, Aleksandra with her sweet kid tones) trade off lines and sass each other, and the instruments (guitars, bells, keys, violins) whip up a joyful mess, while the drums try mightily to pin it all down. Bands with less grasp on dynamics and timing and a less sympathetic producer than Broken Social Scene's producer Dave Newfeld might have ended up with a real mess of a record on their hands. Instead, Los Campesinos! have a ringing success here: a combination of punk rock energy, indie pop wit and emotion, indie rock experimentation, and the raw feel of classic garage bands throughout the ages. The bands they bring to mind at different points of the record are the kind of groups whose songs could tear your heart out with a sudden dynamic burst, a cutting lyric, or a singalong chorus, bands like Huggy Bear, Comet Gain, Heavenly, and the early Pastels. It's no stretch to include Los Campesinos! in this select group or to favorably rate their best songs, like the indie disco fave "You! Me! Dancing!"with its raging glockenspiels, huge chorus, and snarky lyrics; the hard-driving "Don't Tell Me to Do the Math(s)," which features Aleksandra's best vocals; or the simply heart-stoppingly good "Death to Los Campesinos!," which sports the kind of hook that'll be stuck in your head for days. And you'll be thwarted if you try to find a weak spot or a duff moment on Hold on Now, Youngster.... The only possible problem is that people who need ballads to give them a breather between the squalls of noise and emotion will find them totally absent. They can go listen to a Shins album and leave the debut album of Los Campesinos! to lovers of wildness, unrestrained but thoughtful emotion, and careening songs that leave a mark when they hit you. Recommending this album seems too light a course of action; requiring it may be more apt. Consider Hold on Now, Youngster... highly required, then.
Hold on Now, Youngster...
[Wichita/Arts & Crafts; 2008]
ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!
Every musician is also an audience, and if the ever-growing pile of new music my exhausted mailman brings me every day is any indication, more and more audience members are becoming musicians, too. Since long before "indie" was a buzzword, the loosely defined scene has celebrated participatory self-expression-- whether in the first independently released punk records ("It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it," sang the Desperate Bicycles in 1977, on one of the first ever), the hand-assembled 7" singles of 1980s indie pop, the four-track cassettes of 1990s lo-fi, or even the revival-meeting catharsis of the Arcade Fire and "Form a Band" exhortations of Art Brut. Nobody writes them like they used to, so it may as well be you.
(WITH MY WALKMAN TUCKED UNDER MY FOREARM)
Few bands have made as much out of this ideal of enthusiast-as-artist as Los Campesinos!. Formed two years ago at Cardiff University in Wales, the indie-pop septet first grabbed attention on MySpace, but their music embodies some the best elements of the past 30 years of indie music. It's not just the superficial connections, like their Ramones- or Pastels-style surnames, band-made zine, or the cover of Pavement B-side "Frontwards" on last year's slept-on Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP. With boy/girl exclamations (!) befitting a punkier Heavenly/Calvin Johnson collaboration (!!), the lavish instrumentation of Broken Social Scene (whose Dave Newfeld produces), childish glockenspiels, and exuberantly buzzing guitars, debut album Hold on Now, Youngster... is a giddy, tuneful love note to individuality, pathos, smarts, silliness, and everything else indie pop built its name on. There's even the requisite ironic self-mockery-- nobody actually thought this stuff was cool, did they?
FOUR SWEATY BOYS WITH GUITARS TELL ME NOTHING ABOUT MY LIFE!
Like indie bands from the Smiths to Vampire Weekend, Los Campesinos! pack their songs with lyrical specificity, only their lives are apparently full of internet surfing, indie fandom, and absurd humor. "Stick with the imprints/ With the hieroglyphics that the fan club sent us," Gareth Campesinos! hollers with every exclamation point in his young being on "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats", which claps into an Aleksandra Campesinos!-sung chorus about Spiderman. This bunch are as apt to sing about CTRL-ALT-DEL, LiveJournal entries, and that old blogger standby "throwing up in my mouth" as they are about B-sides, K Records T-shirts, or C-90 cassettes. Hey, this is what they know, and they document it with an emotional vividness that should have Pete Wentz friending them in no time. (Even though he probably won't get most of their jokes.)
THE OPPOSITE OF TRUE LOVE IS AS FOLLOWS: REALITY!
Depressive gloominess is, of course, another indie hallmark, perhaps put most succinctly by a certain former K Records affiliate in the Nirvana title "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die". Hold on Now, Youngster... takes on the topic with wit, sure, but also an ache that suggests that such feelings are still all too real to them. Asked what character from The Breakfast Club he would be, Gareth proclaims, "I'd be the one that dies." Told by Aleksandra that "no one dies," he retorts, "Well, then what's the point?" Then again, "...And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes in Unison" flirts with sex-- starting with the coy opening line, "It's bad enough you ever use the word as an adjective"-- so Los Campesinos! have also shed some of indie-pop's stereotypical puritanism.
AND EVERY SENTENCE THAT I SPOKE BEGAN AND ENDED IN ELLIP...SES!
In contrast with the often exclusively macho male archetypes typically offered by mainstream rock and hip-hop, indie-oriented bands since the Modern Lovers have offered new visions of masculinity. And Hold on Now, Youngster...'s masterful update of indie tropes goes as far as embracing indie pop's bookish wimpiness for both boys and girls, from the Jane Eyre disses of the colorfully chiming "Don't Tell Me to Do the Math(s)" to the "damn extended metaphors" of "My Year in Lists" to, well, there's a song called "We Are All Accelerated Readers". The best holdover from the Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP, "You! Me! Dancing!", is a shy acknowledgment that as much as indie audiences may have come to love dance music, not everyone can do the Dude 'N Nem.
I SPENT THE LAST SEVEN YEARS PERCHED ON THE EDGE OF MY BED SCRATCHING "I AM INCREDIBLY SINCERE" INTO MY FOREARM!
Wry self-criticism has been arguably another of the most integral aspects of indie fandom for decades. If you're going to be a lonely obsessive carting around boatloads of worthless records and even more useless knowledge, you'd better at least have a sense of humor about it. And Los Campesinos! do: "Well, I need new hobbies, that's one thing for certain," they shout on "Knee Deep at ATP" after overturning High Fidelity's hypothesis that "what really matters is what you like, not what you are like." The aforementioned "My Year in Lists" starts to apply the music fanatic's favorite pastime, list-making, to New Year's resolutions, then thinks better of it. You won't admit to reading about it in Pitchfork. Whatever.
I GET CARRIED AWAY...
For all its unabashed indie fandom, Hold on Now, Youngster... varies from the music it worships in a very fundamental way. No one will ever call Los Campesinos! "shambling", as John Peel termed the twee-pop set, nor will they be called slackers, like their heroes Pavement, because this debut is unusually taut and polished, with hooks, crescendos, and clever turns of phrase nearly always in the right place. Yeah, they've started recycling a couple of their tricks, like Ballboy-esque spoken-word outros, and their youthful, shouty vocals won't be for everyone. But in the album's highlight, "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks", the guitars jangle in one speaker and squawk in the other, building up to a gleeful chant-- "One blink for yes, two blinks for no!"-- that caps one of the most triumphant indie-pop songs you're likely to hear in 2008. Cynics will no doubt tar the band's admirers as undeveloped, ignorant, or stupid. But we're happy.
-Marc Hogan, February 21, 2008